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Otto Tief: Wikis


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Otto Tief
Born August 14, 1889
Rapla, Rapla County, Estonia
Died March 5, 1976, Ahja
Nationality Estonia
Occupation Lawyer
Prime Minister

Otto Tief (August 14, 1889, Rapla – March 5, 1976, Ahja) was a lawyer, an Estonian military commander during Estonian War of Independence and later politician, Acting Prime Minister of last legal government of Estonia[1][2] before Estonia re-gained independence from Soviet occupation.


Education and career

Tief studied law in St Petersburg between 1910 and 1916. During the Estonian War of Independence Tief was a commander in Kalevlaste Malev battalion formed in 1918 by members of the Kalev sports society. Following the war he graduated in law from the Tartu University in 1921. He served as legal counsel to the Estonian Land Bank and also in private practice as a lawyer. Tief was elected to the third Riigikogu in 1926 and served as the Minister of Social Affairs from 1926 to 1927 and in 1928 served as the Minister of Justice. In 1932 he was elected to the fifth Riigikogu.

Otto Tief's Government of 1944

The September 18, 1944 appointed Government of Estonia in Riigi Teataja

During the several days between the retreat of German forces and the arrival of the Red Army, acting President Jüri Uluots appointed Otto Tief as Prime Minister and asked him to form a government on 18 September 1944. Tief then published a proclamation declaring re-independence and unsuccessfully attempted to organise a defence of Tallinn against the invading Red Army, which arrived on 22 September 1944.

  • Otto Tief – Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Interior
  • Arnold Susi – Minister of Public Education
  • Johannes Klesment (escaped to Sweden, assumed office 13 January 1945) – Minister of Justice
  • Kaarel Liidak (died 16 January 1945) – Minister of Agriculture
  • Hugo Pärtelpoeg (died 29 April 1951) – Minister of Finance
  • Voldemar Sumberg – Minister of Social Affairs
  • Juhan Pikkov (died 3 September 1947) – Minister of Communications
  • August Rei (in Sweden, assumed office 31 December 1944, until 9 January 1945) – Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Juhan Kaarlimäe – Minister
  • Johannes Sikkar (in Sweden, from 20 April 1952) – Minister
  • Artur Terras (in Sweden, from 20 April 1952) – Minister


Otto Tief was arrested by the Soviet authorities on October 10, 1944. In 1945 he was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in the Siberian gulags. Returning to Estonia in 1956, he was forced to leave for Ukraine until 1965 when he was permitted to return to live just outside the Estonian border in Latvia. When Otto Tief died on March 5th, 1976, the Soviet authorities would not allow his burial in the national cemetery in Tallinn, however he was reburied there in 1993.

Tief's symbolic significance

Tief had the de facto power for only a brief period of time, and his actions were rapidly undone by the invading Red Army. However, Tief has immense symbolic and legal significance, as his proclaiming the restoration of Republic of Estonia, and the accompanying raising of the Estonian flag in the tower of Pikk Hermann significantly reduced the feasibility of Soviet historiography's claims regarding the 1944 Red Army invasion of Estonia constituting "liberation of Estonia".[3][4] Although the attempt to restore Estonian independence in September of 1944 did not succeed, the Otto Tief Government proved to be an integral part of the de jure continuity of Estonia.


In February 2007, Riigikogu decided to commemorate Tief's government as the Day of Resistance on 22 September of every year. 22 September 1944, several days after the withdrawal of Nazi Germany's occupying forces, is the day invading Red Army took over the administrative centres of Tallinn tore down the Estonian national flag and replaced it with the Red Flag, a symbol of Soviet occupation.[5]


  • (Estonian) Otto Tief, "Mälestusi aastaist 1944–1954" – Akadeemia 1990, nr. 2, lk. 231–250


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